This post is part of the Content Q&A Series, featuring interviews with top content strategists and bloggers about their work and insights about the industry.
Alexis Grant turned a part-time social media business into a full-time profession and now empowers others to do the same with candid blog posts, guides and online courses.
She says she’s come to the realization that consistently fabulous content makes you stand out, even in a crowded (and often junky) content ecosystem.
The Content Strategist got some tips from Grant on how to get into and stay ahead in the social media and content strategist business.
What’s your work and how does your background drive your success?
I’m an entrepreneurial writer and digital strategist (and a recovering journalist!). I make my living in a few ways:
- Helping small businesses and organizations with blogging and social media. For example, I run Brazen Careerist’s blog.
- Creating and selling digital guides and courses on my website.
- Writing about careers-related topics for various publications.
This post explains more details about how I make money online. My journalism background has certainly helped me get where I am now; at the core of all my work is strong writing, the ability to tell stories and share strategic messages.
How did you get started?
I began blogging while traveling through Africa in 2008. But I didn’t take on my first social media client until mid-2010, when I was back from traveling and needed to make money. That’s when I realized small businesses had a huge need for help with social media.
I released my first digital guide — about how to build a part-time social media business – in mid-2011, and things have snowballed since then. My biggest piece of advice for anyone looking to transition to running their own business or starting a side hustle is to just get started. [Grant covers this in a recent newsletter.]
I started small without knowing what my project would turn into — and now I have total freedom over my work, which means more freedom in my life. It’s incredibly satisfying to succeed when you’ve built something with your own hands and let your plans evolve along the way.
What’s your process for creating a social media content strategy for a client?
I start by learning a lot about the client’s business. I learn who they’re targeting, so I can figure out where those people hang out online.
Then, a lot of the strategy revolves around what kind of content we’ll provide, because offering helpful content is really one of the best ways to build a following.
Since I get asked this question all the time, I go into more detail in How to Create a Freakin’ Fabulous Social Media Strategy, which also includes a strategy template.
How has your personal blog contributed to your needs in running your own business?
My blog is really the foundation for everything I do. It showcases my expertise, helps me build a community and leads to clients and referrals. My blog is my baby!
You wrote recently that you’re rebranding your blog. What brought you to this decision?
I started blogging about travel and writing, which is why I’ve called myself The Traveling Writer for a few years. But now I’m focusing more on careers and the new workforce — how to get where you want to be professionally, how to build the life you want to live, how to create freedom in your work (and I still write a lot about writing, too).
Loyal readers know what to expect when they visit the blog, but new visitors often think I’m a travel blogger, and that’s no longer the case. So I’m looking to rebrand to better reflect what I have to offer and where I’m going.
The first step in this process is figuring out what to call myself, then creating a logo and website design that meshes well with that concept. Holler if you have any ideas for a new blog name!
There’s a lot of definitions for content marketing — based on the work you do, how would you define it?
I hate that phrase because people who don’t do it don’t know what it means. But I do really consider myself a content marketer — I create content that helps companies and organizations cultivate communities.
It’s not outright marketing material, but more along the lines of helpful, useful content that will draw readers to that brand. It’s the same thing I offer on my own blog — posts that will help my readers reach their goals.
What I’m saying is that content marketing doesn’t have to be “market-y.” It can — and in a lot of places should — just be awesome content, and it serves a double purpose of promoting your brand.
What changes do you see coming in the content space, and what are you excited about?
What I’m not excited about is all the crap out there. It takes an increasing amount of work to sort through all the junk content to find info that’s really helpful.
Sometimes I get notes from people who’ve bought and devoured my guides, and they go on and on about how great and useful the information was, and I want to say, “You paid for this! I promised you something! Of course it’s great!”
But the expectation has been set so low that they’re thrilled when content is awesome.
Maybe that’s the bright spot here – if you create fabulous, relevant content, you will stand out. But you’ve got to create it on a consistent basis, and you’ve got to figure out how to reach enough eyes that your content catches on. It’s not easy in a cluttered world!
What skill or personal trait do you find to be a differentiator in developing content?
Personality, and the ability to convey that personality through your writing. So much writing is bland, corporate and boring.
If you can let your personality shine through your writing — and the best way to do that is to write how you talk, and in an honest voice — your readers will feel like they know you, and they’ll love you for that.
Any industry-related pet peeves?
Republishing blog content without attribution. In other words, stealing. Not cool.